Why Red M&M's Once Disappeared For More Than 10 Years

There is a pretty convincing argument that M&M's are the most colorful candies in existence. Their array of rainbow shades, which began with just brown, red, orange, yellow, green, and violet (via History), have greatly expanded over the years to include blue lagoon, soft pink, and cloud white (via M&M's).

However, the colors of M&M's are not without their troubles. One scandal that had a significant impact on the candies focused on the reputation of the mighty red M&M — somewhat ironic given that Red is a complete perfectionist who "can't help but be perfect" (via M&M's).

The problem affecting the red-colored M&M is buried in the product's history. While the other colors experienced the full vibrancy of the late 1970s and early 1980s, red M&Ms were nowhere to be seen, Mental Floss reports. That's because they were crushed by health worries that wreaked havoc with their legendary status — worries that eventually turned out to be unfounded.

A cancer scare led to red M&M's being dropped

Red M&M's became a victim of a food safety scare during the '70s. In 1976, Mars, the company that produces M&M's and later became Mars Wrigley, axed the popular candy color because of health fears about a red food coloring called Red Dye No.2, reports Mental Floss. The scare stemmed from a Russian theory that associated the dye with causing cancer, and an FDA investigation concluded the coloring caused malignant tumors in rats (via Live Science).

Officials later prohibited the use of Red Dye No.2, but the Los Angeles Times explained that M&M's were never affected by the problem because the red chocolates contained different types of dyes. Mental Floss indicates that Mars decided to pull red M&M's in order to save the product's reputation.

Eventually public opinion swung in the opposite direction, and widespread petitions were launched to cease the exclusion of red M&M's. Students formed campus groups, World War II veterans campaigned, and even a Society for the Restoration and Preservation of Red M&Ms was formed, reveals Mental Floss. After receiving thousands of supporting letters, Mars reintroduced red M&M's in 1987.